Posture: Rabbit (Sasangasana)
First of all, your “anatomy is your destiny.” The very first time I got myself into Rabbit, I thought, “This yoga is for me.” I love, love, love all of the compression postures because, for my body, they feel natural and comfortable. Back-bending postures, however, are another story – I have to work at it. And the strength and stamina postures, like Standing Head to Knee, Standing Bow and Balancing Stick, I know will always be challenging for me.
Having said that, there really is no limit to what your mind and your body can do. With Rabbit and all other postures in the Bikram Yoga series, just keep your mind on your body and concentrate on your breath.
As you probably know, Rabbit is the only posture that involves use of a “prop” – your towel. The purpose of placing the towel over your heels is to make sure your grip is secure – and it’s an absolutely necessary part of this pose, so no excuses!
To get the proper grip, cradle your heels in your palms over the towel, getting a firm grip with your fingers.
Once you have the grip, it’s time to get into the posture. As soon as I lower my chin to my chest I round my shoulders, collapse my chest, curl my torso, and “crunch my belly” with the emphasis on the exhalation of my breath. Slowly and tightly, I curl forward until my forehead touches against my knees and the top of my head touches the floor.
Simultaneously, as I curl, I lift my hips in the air and pull. As you roll forward you must keep your grip in place; if you lose your grip, you lose your power. Roll forward all the way until the arms and elbows are straight, thighs perpendicular to the floor, feet flat on the floor. Your weight is supported by the tension between your arms and your heels, not your head.
Each time I exhale, I pull and roll forward (like a wheel) and, at the same time, I suck my stomach in. Since my back is nice and supple I’m able to stretch all the way (even on a not-so-good day), and my forehead always touches my knees. Lucky me, I’ve never had to walk my knees forward one by one – but you might.
To create an even deeper stretch from top to bottom, I press up, spine up, stomach in and up. I can even feel the backs of my legs and my buttocks working in Rabbit. The throat-choked feeling and the cramp in your stomach is no reason to come out early – stay in it, you’re doing it right! Rabbit doesn’t require great body strength or agility; the object of the pose is to stretch the spine out slowly, getting maximum longitudinal extension of the spine. I love it!
My final advice: practice, patience and persistence. Oh, and look at your stomach, so you can suck it in; you can probably suck it in more than you think. You just have to see it to believe it!